When Rockford Register Star reviewer Anna Derocher stopped by Coco Joe's, she didn't hesitate to bring her family. The all-American grill and ice-cream shop did not disappoint; "All of us went home stuffed," she writes, including her 9-year-old son who gave "two thumbs up" to his double cheeseburger. The menu of hot sandwiches and crinkle cut french fries was even enough to satisfy Derocher's 14-year-old niece, who was pleased to find her chicken sandwich crispy instead of greasy. The housemade root beer was by far the family favorite, a suitably sweet prelude to desserts of chocolate shakes, M&M's-dotted flurries, and waffle cones so big they double as dunce caps. None of the dishes—from the fried-fish sandwiches to the hearty bowls of chili—are pre-made, but the Derocher family agrees that each treat is "worth the wait."
Natural light licks the lacquered bar, laden with down-turned coffee mugs, silverware rolls, and the reflection of a smiling server. Spatulas, seasoned pans, and other kitchen utensils adorn the diner's walls, all hinting at what defines Sheri’s Place: real comfort food, everything from house-made meatloaf and fluffy fresh-whipped omelets to a Friday-night fish fry with hand-breaded fillets. The quaint eatery can seat roughly 90 folks at its casual tables and booths, which are ergonomically designed to maximize the speed at which patrons can devour a house-made rhubarb or caramel-apple pie without hands.
Papa John's crafts oven-baked creations from a menu brimming with robust topping options. Fresh roma tomato slices, baby portabello mushrooms, and jalepeño peppers adorn pizzas with garden variety, as well as black olives imported from Spain's Herrara grove. Meaty options such as grilled all-white-meat chicken, filler-free spicy italian sausage, and hickory-smoked bacon add layers of heartiness to slices, and cheese blends pair mozzarella with parmesan, romano, or asiago.
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milk Shake, and Best Drive-Thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through their program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
Cronies Grill complements its show-stopping menu of comforting American comestibles with regular entertainment for the eyes, ears, and feet, including weekly karaoke and dancing nights. Patrons can prepare themselves to sing like a bird with platters of Cronies' locally famous jumbo chicken wings ($7.99 for 10 wings), doused in secret spices before fried until golden. Homemade onion strings ($5.99) and garlic poppers ($5.99) further hone hand-mouth coordination so that customers can safely attack fully loaded sandwiches such as the 2/3-pound Crony burger ($9.49), topped with grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms, bacon, BBQ barbecue sauce, and cheddar cheese ($9.49). An all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar ($6.99) pleases leaf lovers with hot and cold plates of omnivorous treats, and Southwestern favorites such as beef or chicken quesadillas ($7.99–$8.99) and grilled shrimp fajitas ($14.99) satisfy south-of-the-border taste buds residing in the lower chin.
At Brooklyn Deli, owners Mark Anderson and Don Bothem slice premium meats and julienne subway passes for authentic New York-style sandwiches. Along with their menu of Brooklyn classics, the duo and their staff whip up custom creations, layering breads with meats, toppings, dressings, and cheeses. Meanwhile, freshly cut potatoes simmer in the fryer, and Otis Spunkmeyer cookies rise in the ovens. Out in the dining area, cheerful red booths and stools line up beneath photographs of New York.